I am continuing my list of 19 steps you can accomplish to improve your breast health, during this COVID pandemic. My first volume was about mammograms. In the second volume I touched on alcohol, smoking, weight gain, hormones, sleep, and pregnancy. Let’s continue.
#7 Take some time to exercise every day, for about 40 minutes if possible.
I think this recommendation should be given top priority, as the days warm up, and the daylight time lengthens, and most of us have more free time. There is a clear benefit for decreasing risk of breast cancer, particularly in postmenopausal women. It does not have to be intense; simply walking about 30 minutes daily will benefit. Simply adding more steps per day will help.
#8 Pay attention to your vitamin D levels.
Data on breast cancer risk related to low vitamin D levels is not as strong as for some of the other measures on this list, but an adequate vitamin D level is very important to good health in general. Vitamin D is unique in that the body can make its own if you spend adequate time in the sun. Exposure to the sun for 15 minutes each day is likely to provide all that you need, and it is probably the best way to maintain your vitamin D level. If you cannot get out in the sun, take a vitamin D supplement daily, such as D2 or D3. A simple blood test can measure your vitamin D and calcium levels. If your calcium is high, you should make sure you don’t have an underlying parathyroid problem, which also lowers your vitamin D level, but that’s another story.
#9 Consider following the Mediterranean diet
This diet is one that is rich in fruits, nuts, vegetables, legumes, fish, and olive oil. Wine in moderation is also allowed. Red meats and butter are avoided. Although it is not easy to make firm conclusions on the impact of various diets on cancer risk, there is definitely support for following such a diet as compared to what many of us are eating, like fried food, high carbohydrate foods, high fat, red meats, and processed foods.
Obviously this recommendation only applies to a small group of women, but there are lots of good reasons to consider it, both for mom and for baby. Breast-feeding definitely will decrease your breast cancer risk. This appears to be due to the inhibition of the normal menstrual cycle. Secondly, breast-feeding acts kind of like a “flushing out” of the duct system of the breasts, which is where breast cancers usually arise. It is recommended that you breast feed even well beyond 6 months. There are benefits for baby as well.
#11 Environmental pollutants
The data on environmental pollutants and breast cancer is not strong, but there is some common sense about the potential for pollutants in the air to affect are health more generally. And given that we are all intensely focused on the transmissibility of the coronavirus through air, it seems worthwhile to discuss the future of wearing masks. Will this become the norm for us, as it has in many Chinese cities? On the other hand, the economic shutdown in several highly polluted cities has dramatically improved the air quality in just a few weeks. Will the realization that we can so quickly improve air quality cause us to make some more dramatic long-term changes that could sustain the improvement?
Will masks become the staple, and perhaps a fashion statement, rather than being discarded as the pandemic subsides? If you do decide to continue wearing a mask when out and about, I would suggest you choose one that is the equivalent of the N95 .
#12 Manager emotional stress
Evidence for this correlation is soft, but being that everyone’s stress level is probably higher than normal now, I think it is worth discussing. I think everyone will agree that living under stress is not as good as living “relaxed”. There are lots of ways to proactively deal with stress, and I would highly encourage you to find something that works for you, either exercise, which is doubly beneficial, meditation, yoga, prayer, and perhaps just being sure you have interaction time with others, and don’t remain completely isolated.
With the next volume, I will finish up this list of 19 things you can do to improve your breast health during this COVID pandemic. If you missed my first and second volumes, these are the links. I’d love some feedback. Feel free to comment, and stay safe!